Travel Light: 5 Strategies for Holiday Travel without weight gain

Travel Light: 5 Strategies for Holiday Travel without weight gain

By Jennifer Messineo, MS, RD, CDN

The joy of traditions, family and friends and of course good food during the holidays are a welcome break from the mundane of the daily grind.  It’s also the season for traffic, long lines and waiting in airports – situations ripe for making poor food choices. The AAA estimated that 107.3 million people were expected to travel during the 2017 year end holidays from December 23 to January 1.  If you plan to be one of the millions of people traveling this season, don’t let the anxiety of leaving your healthy routine at home ruin your holiday. Here are simple strategies for holiday travel without the weight gain.


1) Travel Light

Don’t check your luggage because your suitcase is busting with 100-calorie snack packs and trail mix.  Pack light. Plan ahead and stock up on snacks at the airport or highway restops near your destination. There’s a lot more to choose from as the demand for healthy options increases.  Try individual packs of nuts, baked chips and bars. Some markets may have fresh food options such as fruit, hard boiled eggs and individual hummus or guacamole snacks.

2) Have Some Fun

Hit your daily step goal of 10,000 steps while visiting friends and family for the holidays by planning fun activities.  Check out the local zoo, do some hiking, go ice skating or spend the day walking around a city sightseeing. Physical activity will make you feel invigorated after a large meal and it won’t even feel like exercise.  Combine activities with eating lighter the day after you celebrate to balance the holiday meal.

3) Do Some Light Reading

Check out menus before you go out and have a plan for when you get to the restaurant.  Pay attention to the calorie counts. The average person should aim for approximately 300-700 calories for a small to moderate sized meal. Just because something looks “light” (i.e. a salad or yogurt smoothie) or is labeled “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.  Look for grilled, broiled or baked meat or fish and ask for a double side of vegetables instead of potatoes. Is fast food you’re only option on the road? No problem. Most fast food restaurants have lighter choices so when you’re on the go, get a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain burger.  Then, add a salad and apple slices for variety on the side. Choose water or seltzer instead of soft drinks (If seltzer is not listed on the menu – fast food restaurants have it. Just ask.) If you’re craving something specific – just get the “small”. If you’re hungry a couple of hours later, you’ll have one of the snacks you stocked up on at the airport. 

4) Say No to Airplane Food

It’s hard to pass up food that’s served on an airplane especially if the surprise that awaits you under the plastic wrapper is the highlight of the trip.  Being stuck in a small seat watching a movie you don’t like is no reason to eat when you are not hungry. You could receive up to one meal and several snacks depending how long your flight is.  Check in with yourself. Are you hungry? Do you like what they are serving? Would you rather have the healthy snack you packed or wait until you land to eat?

5) Be on Time

Schedules make the planes, trains and buses run on time but they’re also valuable tools for maintaining your health goals long term. Try to stick to your usual routine as much as possible while on the road.  If you usually eat a snack at 2pm, then plan to have your snack around that time. You don’t have to let outside schedules derail you (i.e. pass on the airplane snack if you’re not hungry).


Don’t let a one week vacation turn into weeks or even months of abandoning the healthy habits you worked so hard to achieve.  Flexibility is key to success because life is full of unexpected turns on the road. Go with the flow. Make the best choice you can in a given situation, then get back on track when you get home.



Have Holiday Plans, Will Travel: Record-Breaking 107 Million Americans to Celebrate Holidays Away From Home. (2017, December 14). Retrieved November 17, 2018, from


Nick VanMeter